Your Body Language Shapes You

A number of years ago I heard this Ted Talk, and have now read Amy Cuddy’s book Presence, and I want to share this extremely useful and powerful information. The book outlines the many people whose lives this video has changed, and the research behind it. This can improve your test taking, presentations, interviews, athletics, answering questions in school, and stressful interactions.

If you read the book you will see the many and extremely diverse ways that people throughout the world have transformed themselves based on this video. The book also discusses other research and simple movements that you can adopt to change your life. Please take the time to watch this talk, and use it to your benefit.

How to Fill out the Parent Brag Sheet

The parent’s brag sheet is one item guidance counselors use to write college recommendations for your student. The time and effort that you put into this document reaps important benefits in the college process. Nobody knows your student like you do, and now you have the opportunity to highlight their best qualities.

At many public high schools, the student to counselor ratio can be extremely high (in excess of 500:1). Though you may find some of the questions on the Brag Sheet to be elementary, counselors often don’t have the time, resources or opportunity to get to know your student at a more personal level. Further, college admission counselors know that sometimes the most valuable insights into a student’s life come straight from the student’s high school counselor. That’s why filling out this survey accurately and with detailed information is so important!

The Brag Sheet is a document your student’s counselor will use to provide details about their life inside and outside of the classroom. They need and want useful anecdotes about your student. They are trying to paint a picture for an admission counselor; provide them with a vibrant color palette!  Be truthful, but also stay on the positive side. Remember, your counselor is looking for direct quotes to insert into a recommendation letter. Give them some dynamic options!

What are some common Brag Sheet questions?

How has your student grown and matured over the last four years? Is your student on an “upward trend” in their grades while adding more rigor to their schedule? Are they doing an internship over the summer? Do they have a leadership position in a club which has taught them important life lessons? Can your student now advocate for themselves in the classroom when he/she had trouble with it before? Is he/she taking advantage of extra academic opportunities? These are all great ways to demonstrate commitment to academics and maturing throughout high school. Think outside the classroom as well. Is your student taking on more responsibility at home? Is he/she taking care of grandparents or younger siblings? Maturity can also be focused on personal growth. Is your student overcoming social or emotional challenges? Are they “breaking out of their shell?” A compelling “shift” in a student is definitely something to mention and explain.

What are your student’s greatest accomplishments over his/her years of high school?  Think about defining moments for your student. Was there any particular achievement inside or outside of the classroom you’d want to highlight? Provide some detail and background. It isn’t just that your student was “elected to a position in student government”, it’s that they “ran a positive and progressive campaign during a busy junior year.” Remember, don’t limit yourself to in-school activities. Maybe your student took care of sick family members or had to deal with a tough situation outside of school? Accomplishments don’t have to be academic or focus on awards, it can be overcoming “real life” challenges as well.

What words best describe your child? Time to break out your thesaurus, or look back at the personality profile that I did! Seriously, put some effort into this question. Your student is dynamic, so choose words that are as well. When counselors fill out Common App forms and other documentation for students, they are usually asked to describe your student in a few words to the admission committee. Give them great options! “Smart” can be “intelligent”, “funny” can be “witty” or “humorous”, and “outgoing” can be “courageous.” You may also be asked to demonstrate why you’re describing your student in this way. Make sure to have some specific examples ready!

Did you child face any challenges or are there circumstances that may have affected their educational journey? Life takes all kinds of twists and turns. If you have special circumstances that you wish your student’s counselor – and in turn colleges – to be aware of, this is the place to discuss them. Anything from serious family crisis (the loss of a loved one, job or home) to educational challenges (IEPs, disabilities, accommodations) would fall into this category. Even “smaller” experiences like the move to a new school or city can be addressed here. Contextualize these experiences for your student’s counselor and show how they have affected your student’s life. However, there is no need to overstate something for the sake of answering a question. If your student hasn’t faced any serious challenges, don’t answer this question.

Anything else you’d like to share?  Use this space as an opportunity to share the side of your child that others might glance past. How they might be an asset to a college through their volunteerism or team participation. Maybe there’s something special about your child that others don’t regularly see. Devotion to family, patience with others, being humble about accomplishments – these are all sub-surface aspects of your student that are definitely worth mentioning.

Ultimately, you have important insights into who your child really is and what makes them wonderful. Make sure that your student’s counselor, and potential admission counselors, have an intriguing picture.

Financial Considerations when Choosing a College

What Will the College Actually Cost?

When you receive your scholarship and financial awards from your colleges take the time to look at the school’s net price for you. That is Cost of Attendance – which is tuition, room, board, fees, books, etc. — (minus grants, loans, work-study, and scholarships). Separate any loans that the family would have to pay back.

Look at your Financial and Merit Aid Awards Carefully.

Some colleges say: “renewable.” Some financial and merit aid is meant as a one-time enticement for entering freshman, while other aid is for all four years — but it might be contingent on your kid’s GPA. Make sure you read the letter very carefully and know the conditions. Then, if you have any questions call the school’s financial aid office to get answers. Is it based on your student’s GPA? And if your kid earns those grades, is it certain the money will be there each year?

Do the Colleges Accept your Students’ AP and IB credits for College Credit? 

Save tuition by choosing a school that accepts your kid’s college credits. Many of my students get a years’ worth of college credit at the outset. This can obviously save you a year of college tuition and get them out into the working world earlier.

Tell your Students the Truth about your Finances.

It may be hard not to allow your kid to attend the most expensive college, but your long term financial stability is very important. Weigh the schools, how much you’ll contribute, how much in loans your kid should take, what the schools’ graduation rates are, if they are offering work-study money, etc. Once you have all the offers, evaluate your family’s circumstances, do you have another child that will be in college soon? Are there any major expenses that you have not factored in? Does your student want to go to graduate school, and therefore a cheaper undergraduate degree would be fine?

If you Accept Student Loans, use the Federal Loans First.

Federal loans generally have lower interest rates than private loans, no hidden fees, and better repayment terms. Stafford Loans — direct loans from the government — have the best current interest rate. They are limited to $5,500 for freshmen, $6,500 for sophomores and $7,500 for juniors and seniors.

Never Use your Retirement Savings.

If you do, you will be taxed on that money and which will reduce your child’s financial aid eligibility the next year. You need to keep your money in your retirement accounts.

You can Negotiate your Offer.

As long as you have a good reason, you can ask the college’s financial aid department to grant you more money. In many instances you can mention a better offer from a competing college, or a family circumstance which changes your ability to pay. Definitely call if there is a divorce or a lost job. Have all your financial information ready when you make the call. Be polite and clear, not whiny or pushy. Some financial aid officer make $40,000 a year, so be careful in how you describe your circumstances.

Congratulations on Your Successes!!

20 Reasons a College Degree is More Powerful Than a High School Diploma

Is a college degree really worth the cost and effort?

Here are my top 20 reasons that a college degree is worthwhile:

  1. You’ll earn about $1 million more in salary over your lifetime
  2. Your life expectancy is going to be longer on average
  3. You will have more savings as an adult
  4. Enjoy the flexibility to change jobs and cities if you choose to
  5. More purchasing options because you have more income

If money isn’t your motivator – how about these:

  1. Enjoy more hobbies and leisure activities
  2. Better health due to better decisions
  3. Greater job security
  4. More optimism about the future
  5. Better memories of the past

College enables you to:

  1. Live and socialize with tons of new people your own age
  2. Develop friendships with new, unique, interesting, and fun people
  3. Try new activities at little or no cost
  4. Attend concerts and sporting events for free
  5. Travel abroad for a meaningful amount of time

Still not convinced? How about:

  1. See free movies shown at the college before they are on video
  2. All you can eat buffets everyday
  3. You can join a weird club
  4. You can start your own new (even weirder) club
  5. Your kids are more likely to want to go to college too

Obviously everyone has their own reasons for choosing to go to college, and for choosing the college that they attend. Ultimately you’re the only one who can decide what’s right for your situation.

Deciding that college is the correct path is only the beginning. Whether you want the benefits of working with a college consultant or go it alone, make sure to ask the right questions about your target colleges so that youchoose a college that is the right fit for you.

Join the conversation – share your ideas about why a college degree is awesome on our Facebook page

Thanks for reading!